I have spent a lot of time angry at Michael. It comes in stages. Sometimes I am angry at others, the Marine Corps, myself, other times God or Michael, even Frank. Sometimes I am angry at nothing and no one…the truth is that I get angry because I don’t know what else to feel. I don’t understand, I absorb the pain of others, everything just becomes too much.
There have been times in my life where I have come to an understanding about Michael. Like the time I went to the World Trade Center site with Frank. I cried like a baby and he just walked with me and held my hand. He knew that I was crying for the people lost, the families left behind, and for Michael. During movies, dance recitals, soccer games…so many times I have sat there and understood a little more about Michael, why he wanted to be in his unit and why he felt like he had to be a part of a place so far away from home. Not initially, but eventually, I felt like he was protecting us. He was doing what he knew to keep our family safe. He was also doing something that he loved to do, and that I believe he was rather good at.
Something that I have not understood are his actions on that day. That has made me angry. The anger rotates. One day I will be angry with him, or others, or the situation that took him far away. Most of my anger has been directed at the unit. I can admit that…I really have a level of hatred for his unit that I wish I could let go of. It literally makes me cringe. Some of it is because of how I was treated afterward. Some of it is because I feel like many things are poorly planned and it affects families in ways that just are not fair. Don’t get me wrong, I have created wonderful friendships with a few families from the unit and some of the people who I am closest with are still a part of it, but it has nothing to do with them. Anyway…I was, at many times over the last 3 1/2 years, angry with Michael. I am sure there will be days that I am still angry with him, because in my irrational brain I want him to have put the kids and I first and sometimes I fail to remember that in his mind he was.
Tonight my Dad and I went to see Les Miserables. Go see it. I saw it on Broadway in NYC when I was 12…all in French. I understood as much of it as I could at that age. I never read the book, but I always loved a few of the songs. Seeing the movie was a completely different experience. There are parts that ripped my heart out. The first was in the beginning when I could feel Fantine’s desperation to take care of her child. I can’t even describe it, but Anne Hathaway really made me feel her character. Another was when Hugh Jackman sang “Bring Him Home”. All I could think about was Michael. The last time that I saw him I hugged him hard and I whispered in his ear,”Please come back to me, I need you.” He said what any husband would say, “I will, I promise, I love you.” I think about that moment all the time. I can hear the desperation in my voice, the need for reassurance, the fear. I can hear how soft Michael spoke and how his voice cracked when he answered me…almost like he didn’t truly believe it, like he was shaking his own fear.
In the song Hugh Jackman’s character (Jean Valjean) is asking God to let Marius, the man his daughter loves, to survive the revolution. As I listened I thought about how I was almost certain that if my Dad could he would trade places with Michael so I never had to feel this pain. I also know that Michael’s actions were for the same reasons. His instinct was to protect those that he was deployed with. I know Michael wanted to come home…I know that. I know he wanted to raise our children with me. I know that he wanted to live a long and happy life with me. I know all that as much as I know that he wanted to protect the guys that he was with. In an instant, in that movie, a bible verse came to my mind, one that’s engraved on gifts to the kids from his friends…one that I honestly despised because of my own selfishness. I thought about 1 John 3:16 and John 15:13…I will quote the latter in Michael’s favorite, KJV, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” He was young, he had a family and it is heartbreaking that he isn’t here…but I think about the other men he was with, the ones that may not have made it home if it weren’t for Michael that day. I believe that his decisions made a difference, that while the decisions he made may have cost him his life, others lived. I didn’t really get that before. I didn’t really get that Michael had everything that he truly needed…he was finished. It is hard to explain what I mean, and I am sure others will take it the wrong way. There were things that he could and would do if he came home, but he didn’t really need anything else. He said that in more ways than one to me over the course of our time together. Everything that he needed in life God had given to him. I can’t think of one person on the team that was/is “finished”. Some have come home and had babies…babies that never would have been born if they didn’t come home. Some have come home and moved on to others jobs and they are doing good things for others. Some are just getting to spend time with family members after dedicating so much time to the military. I like to think that each man who made it home is slowly finding all the things that they need in life. I like to think that all of them are working hard at filling their space in this world like they are meant to. I am sure some of them will screw up some things…I will too, Michael would have also. But…it doesn’t really matter. I don’t know for sure that they are living to their full potentials…I don’t talk to everyone on the team…but I like to think that Michael’s sacrifice was not in vain. I can’t look at the war and say that it is or was right now. I can’t look at our country and say that it was, but I can look at the lives of some of the men and say that he would be proud of them. There is a lot of pressure in what I am saying. I know because I feel it. The whole course of my life has changed because in Michael’s death I have come to truly understand that my purpose is to be the best darn Mom that I can be to my children FIRST. Second, my purpose is to be the best partner to Frank that I can be. Third, I am supposed to be a good friend and family member. Last, eventually I am supposed to do something with all of this education that I have…but for now I am using it to educate my own children. I don’t think I would have accepted or realized my place in this world if it weren’t for all the pain.
I cannot look past the fact that Frank is here, in our lives, partly because of Michael. I really have no other words for that…I can’t even describe what I feel. I also don’t care what people may think when it comes to Frank and I anymore. Not everything makes sense…I lost my husband and my children lost their Daddy and now we have Frank and he has been beyond wonderful for us to have in our lives. Anyone that dislikes us or feels that we are dishonoring my husband is really the one who is dishonoring him, and our family. Michael wouldn’t have wanted me suffering through this life alone…he wouldn’t have wanted Olivia to not have someone tell her how beautiful she is. He wouldn’t want the boys to not have a man to look up to. And neither do I…if any of them knew me and my children then they would know how much of a difference Frank has made for us.
The second song (another moment in the movie) is called “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”. This one deeply affected me because for the first time I get it. I understand how even though Frank and I have not experienced the same things, I lost my husband, he has lost friends, our feelings are both very real. I have struggled with the fact that Michael was the one to go and not me. That might sound weird, but I really just did not understand why it had to be him. I thought for a long time that dying is the worst thing that can happen to a life. I realize though that Michael was right when he wrote “My Sacrifice” in that his pain is over because that is what death grants us, whereas mine and the kids pain is just beginning. Death is easier in some ways… It is difficult to be the person that comes home…there is a level of grief and guilt that cannot be voiced. I knew this, when Michael died, I knew this but I did not get it. I spoke to the team at one point after they returned, everyone together. This was difficult for me to do. When I saw everyone I thought I would see Michael with them alive…when I didn’t it was a slap in the face. I had to walk outside and compose myself. I cried and puked and my CACO and chaplain offered to pull the truck up so that I could leave without saying a word. I knew though that for Michael, not myself, I needed to speak to everyone because I needed everyone to know that Michael wouldn’t want them in pain or to feel guilt. I knew that Michael would want them to go home and love their families with everything in them, as he did us. I think I also needed them to know that I was going to figure this out and find a way to survive, that they didn’t have to worry about me. I don’t really remember what I said to them, so I hope that they understood what I was saying at the time. I wish, with everything in me, that I could take all of Frank’s pain away. I think that the kids and I have been healing for him. I think that he is a completely different person now than he was at the beginning of us. He has more to focus on now…and so do the kids and I. But his pain is still there below the surface and I can’t do anything about it. Michael didn’t get his tomorrow…but we all did, so I guess that through it all that is what I have to focus on.
Here is a link to the songs:
***I apologize for any bad grammar…or if this did not make sense. I will reread it someday, but today I just had to get it out of my heart. I love my husband, my children, Frank, and those that have continuously supported me with every fiber of my being. Coming to new understandings is always emotional, heartbreaking, and wonderful. There is a pain in my soul that will never go away, it will always be there because the day Michael died I lost a part of me. I hope what I wrote makes as much sense to you as it does me. I could write a lot more about the movie and other things that I felt, but I may need to do that in parts. The movie is extraordinary…it really is.***